The STOP Tool

Chapter 7:
The STOP Tool

The unconscious activity of performance momentum is succinctly satirized in the lyrics of “I’m in a Hurry,” made popular by the band Alabama in the early nineties.

I’m in a hurry to get things done Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really got to do is live and die. But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Gaining mobility at work can be done. But as attractive and as beneficial as it might sound, it is not easy. Though mobility is a potential for all human beings, and is, I believe, aligned with the very nature of Self 2, most of us work in environments, inner and outer, that make it difficult to achieve.

The hard part is to remain conscious while working. When conscious, we see that it is important to us not only to achieve our goals on time, but to achieve them in a way that is satisfying. We see that it is important to enjoy and to learn while we are accomplishing the task at hand. But in the midst of the various pressures, routines, and momentums of our daily work life, it is not so easy to remain truly conscious.

The Inner Game of Work is about finding a way of working in which you can be more fully conscious—more aware of where you are, where you are going, and why. This is the essence of mobility and what sets it apart from conformity. It is what Self 2 is all about. It is why redefining work and learning to focus are important. All of this is geared to arriving at a place where we can work more consciously. This is what it takes to work free.

STOP-START-STOP—How many times in a single workday do you have to interrupt what you are doing to start something else? You may even stop something important to take care of a time-sensitive but less important task. In my workday, there can easily be more than twenty such “interruptions.” If I’m in my Self 1 performance momentum, each interruption brings an automatic reaction of annoyance and with it a loss of conscious mobility.

The alternative is to first STOP and make a conscious choice about if and when to interrupt what you are doing. This STOP doesn’t take away the consequences of the interruption, but allows me to exercise my choice which removes the annoyance and provides a sense of freedom and enjoyment because I still have my hands on the steering wheel of my work day. If I decide yes, then before starting the new activity, I take a short STOP to consciously “close the books” on the last activity and to orient myself to the purpose and context of the next. Creating a sense of closure on each activity and making a conscious choice about the next relieves the mind from carrying an accumulating burden of unfinished tasks. It can make all the difference between a satisfying day of conscious choices and what otherwise could feel like a fatiguing day of needless interruptions. The trick is to realize you don’t have to carry unfinished tasks in your mind; you can lay them down, knowing they will be there when you have the chance to pick them up again.

Here are just a few of the benefits from practicing STOP-START-STOP:

- More acknowledgment of work accomplished
- Fewer work burdens carried home at the end of the day
- More conscious choices made
- Feeling more rested and energized during and after work
- More innovation available
- A clearer sense of purpose and priority
- More conscious changes made where needed
- Remembering one’s learning goal
- Checking on feeling levels – enjoyment, stress, tiredness
- Remembering forgotten commitments
- Deciding whether a longer STOP is needed

The benefits are many. But how do you find the discipline to do it?

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